New roller coaster replaces the one Sandy plunged into sea

In this May 20, 2017, photo, a statue of a clown rests on a bench as people riding the Hydrus roller coaster go over a drop at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
In this May 20, 2017, photo, people ride the Hydrus roller coaster, Saturday, May 20, 2017, at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
In this May 20, 2017, photo, people react as they go over a hairpin drop while riding the Hydrus roller coaster at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
In this May 20, 2017, photo, people riding a chair lift converse as the new Hydrus roller coaster, bottom, is seen at a distance at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
In this May 20, 2017, photo, people enjoy beachside games as a a wagon from the Hydrus roller coaster, top right, goes over a turn at Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
FILE – In this Feb. 25, 2013, file photo, the sun rises behind the Jet Star roller coaster, partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. A new roller coaster named Hydrus, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water, opened May 6, 2017, more than four years after the storm caused billions of dollars' worth of damage to the coast. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2012, file photograph, the Jet Star roller coaster remains partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. A new roller coaster named Hydrus, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water, opened May 6, 2017, more than four years after the storm caused billions of dollars' worth of damage to the coast. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE – In this May 14, 2013, file photo, the claw of a crane, center, tears through the structure of the Jet Star roller coaster, partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier, as workers begin demolishing the roller coaster in Seaside Heights, N.J. A new roller coaster named Hydrus, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water more than four years after the storm caused billions of dollars' worth of damage to the coast. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
FILE – This combination of file photos shows the sun rising Feb. 25, 2013, behind the Jet Star roller coaster, partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J., and the empty site on Oct. 13, 2013, nearly a year after the storm, following the roller coaster's demolition. A new roller coaster named Hydrus, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water, opened May 6, 2017, more than four years after the storm caused billions of dollars' worth of damage to the coast. (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
FILE – In this Saturday, May 20, 2017, file photo, people ride the new Hydrus roller coaster on the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J. More than four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed part of the Casino Pier and left the since-demolished Jet Star roller coaster partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean, the new roller coaster named Hydrus opened May 6, 2017, built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — Nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy plunged a roller coaster into the sea in what became one of the storm's most enduring images, the ride has been replaced — safely inland this time.

Hydrus opened this month at the Casino Pier amusement park, built above the beach rather than out over the water to prevent another catastrophe. It's not only thrilling riders; it's also raising spirits in a section of the Jersey shore where not everything is yet back to normal after the October 2012 storm.

"This is part of the rebirth of the town," said Mayor Anthony Vaz, who was among the many Seaside Heights residents displaced from their homes by the storm. "It's like a new start for us."

Seeing the Jet Star rusting away in the surf was painful, the mayor said.

"It went from icon to eyesore," he said.

Vaz estimated the resort town made infamous by the MTV reality show "Jersey Shore" has made a 70 percent recovery from Sandy. The borough's taxable property is still worth about $200 million less than it was before the storm.

Its neighbor to the north, the Ortley Beach section of the community of Toms River, is still struggling. Many vacation homes near the beach that were destroyed have yet to be rebuilt, and many streets are pockmarked with empty lots and half-built wooden frames.

And to the south, businesses along the boardwalk in adjacent Seaside Park are still being rebuilt following a fire that swept through the Seaside Heights and Seaside Park boardwalks in September 2013.

Maria Mastoris, a spokeswoman for Casino Pier, said the company never doubted it would replace the Jet Star.

"Our team at Casino Pier has worked extremely hard since Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to rebuild and come back from the devastation," she said. "With our brand new roller coaster Hydrus, and Ferris wheel on our brand new extended pier, we can finally close the book on Sandy and start fresh."

Mastoris would not say how much the ride cost to build other than to say "millions."

Getting the new coaster in place took some doing. The old pier jutted out over the water; one of the main attractions of the Jet Star was the sensation of looking down and seeing the waves underneath.

But after Sandy destroyed part of the pier, it was obvious that a safer plan would be to build the new roller coaster on the beach.

That required a complicated land swap among Casino Pier and Seaside Heights because the ride would be occupying beachfront land that had public use restrictions on it.

In return for permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to use the beach, Casino Pier donated land to the borough for additional parking, and gave the borough a historic boardwalk carousel that was due to be dismantled and sold off piece by piece. It will be displayed in a museum on the donated land.

Painted neon green and bright blue, the roller coaster has a 72-foot vertical drop, and several loops and twists that rattle the brains more than on the Jet Star. It costs about $10 to ride, although tickets can be bought cheaper in bulk.

"It was awesome!" exclaimed Alison Cornell of Belvidere, New Jersey. "It looked like you were going right in to the ocean. It was exhilarating. You get a 360-degree view of the whole area around it. It was really exciting."

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Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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